By Jelane A. Kennedy
After camping the night in Virginia we wanted to see what another day of freestyle might bring with the help of wifi, my itouch and the “Oh Ranger” app, I looked to see what would be on the way north. It seemed like a good day for a biking trail or to go for a hike. Not too far off our path we found Douthat State Park. According to “Oh Ranger” in 1999 the park had been rated as one of the best 10 in the nation by the Editors of Outside Family Vacation Guide and was on the National Register of Historic Places. The park was one of the six original State Parks in Virginia and had opened in 1936.
After breakfast and breaking camp the highway called. In no time Abbey was at the Park Entrance road, the Park Office/Visitor center was three miles in. When we finally got there it was a good time for a restroom break and to get a map of the park. While I got the bikes off the rack, Eileen went to ask the Park attendant for some assistance. Though they were not as helpful as we would have liked, Eileen lucked out and a local woman, who was also in the center, pulled her aside as she left the Office. She suggested that biking was not a good option considering we didn’t have mountain bikes (our cross trainers would not be a good choice on these unpaved trails). Instead she encouraged us to do a couple of hiking trails.
Lori was a runner and used the trails often. In the nearby campground was a new trailhead recently put in by the Boy Scouts, we utilized that as a starting point and created a loop that would bring us back to Abbey. The Park had 40 miles of trails to choose from. It was a beautiful wooded trail that took us up to an overlook of Douthat Lake and then we cut down to the dam where there was a small fishing pond with a waterfall just for kids to fish. We had our lunch at the dam waterfall, which was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) back when the park had just began, about 600 men from the CCC built the foundation of the park. From there we worked our way back out past Creasey Lodge, we were not sure if it was one of the buildings built by the CCC. The lake was beautiful and bigger than we had originally thought. We could tell from our map that there was still so much more to see of the Park. But it was time to be back on the road. We added this park to our list for a return visit.
We left Virginia and headed north into Pennsylvania. We had noticed a KOA in our directory that looked like a good location to stop, and it was dinnertime. To our disappointment, even with the good ratings it was not what we had hoped for, a bit too commercial and more of a parking lot, plus the bathrooms were not great. As we left we decided to stop at a nearby diner to eat and re-group. We were reminded again that looking for a campground before dark gave us options. Eileen noticed on the road atlas Locust Lake State Park. How to get there would be another good question, after our dinner we crossed the street to the Hampton Inn and asked to use their wifi so that we could learn more about the park via our “Oh Ranger” app.
Within about 30 minutes we were there and what a gem we found. Some of the campsites had electricity, which was a nice bonus. The bathroom looked like it had been recently cleaned and was still damp. There was still some daylight left; we took our bikes out for a spin on part of the bike trail and around some of the campsite loops. What a treat that was, to be in a campground that had a bike trail! We ended up that day having both a hike and a bike ride.
The next morning we paid our evening registration fee, and hopped on our bikes for a great ride around the lake before leaving. The bike trail was paved and was 1.3 miles in length, not long but very enjoyable. There were also 6.75 miles of hiking available. It was a great way to start the day and our last leg of our drive home. We arrived early evening in Albany, feeling like we had a successful freestyle home, rested and relaxed.
(c) 2012 Jelane A. Kennedy